The Best Type Of Eggplant To Use For Stuffed Dishes

There's an infinite array of ingredients with which to make Mediterranean stuffed eggplant. You can go the Moroccan route with chermoula and lamb, the Lebanese with spiced beef and onions, the Greek with béchamel sauce and feta cheese, or the Spanish route with pork and mozzarella. But it's important to pick the right one when you're buying eggplant to stuff.

In general, you want to avoid varieties that lack the volume you would want for stuffing; that means staying away from the thinner, more delicate varieties, such as Chinese and Japanese eggplants. But size isn't the only factor to consider when prepping. Italian eggplants, American eggplants, and even the smaller graffiti eggplants are all sturdy enough to be stuffed.

It's also important, whether you're stuffing them or not, that you pick the best-looking, freshest eggplants you can find, and avoid those that might be browning or soft to the touch. Look for eggplants that are firm, with their skin still intact — that means no bruising or discoloration — and green stems.

Globe or American eggplant

As far as eggplant varieties go, the American type is the most common in the U.S. — and that's because they're one of the few varieties that are available year-round. Thankfully, they're also ideal for stuffing. Not only are American eggplants the largest variety — reaching sizes as large as 12 inches in length — but they also have a nice meaty texture that will hold the weight of all of your stuffing ingredients, which means the more the better. As long as you pick one that's fresh, and prepare it correctly, your stuffing will be in good hands. With American eggplants, you can pull out all the heavy hitters — rice, couscous, tomatoes, meat, you name it. 

Just like any eggplant, American eggplants need time to evaporate out the liquid before you prep and cook them further, and this is especially important when you're preparing them stuffed. Whether you're incorporating canned tomatoes or rice, eggplants have a habit of absorbing liquids that can make them tricky to work with. To avoid this, Daniel Boulud recommends sweating your eggplant. This one extra step will help remove bitterness and ensure all of your ingredients cook up the way you want them to. The other trick to stuffing American eggplants is to take note of their size and give them more time to cook if needed. Yes, while size will produce more stuffing, it also means more time in the oven. 

Italian eggplant

Unlike American eggplants, you won't typically find Italian eggplants at the grocery store until they come into season during the summer. But, when that time of year does come, they're a worthy substitute for your stuffed dishes. Although slightly smaller in size, Italian eggplants have a sweeter flavor and slightly more tender texture compared to American ones. However, they're still surprisingly good for stuffed dishes — especially if you're going with an Italian recipe. Tomato sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage, and basil together with the mined tender eggplant flesh are some of the obvious stuffing candidates here. 

As is outlined in Tasting Table's 13 tips for cooking eggplants — bigger isn't always better, and Italian eggplants are proof of that. They work in any preparation you'd use an American eggplant for, however, they're particularly good in stuffed dishes because of their softer texture. Of course, as with any other type of eggplant, you'll want to let them sweat first to achieve that and, while they are called Italian eggplants, they'll work well with any ingredients you choose. Plus, because they're a touch smaller, they'll cook up faster than you're probably used to.

Graffiti eggplant

Graffiti eggplants are another seasonal variety, and they're a great substitution to look for to switch up your stuffed eggplant dishes during the summer months. These eggplants are even smaller than the Italian variety, and their flesh varies in color from white to light purple. They're called graffiti eggplants because of the striped design on their skin, and tend to have more of a teardrop shape to them — but that won't have any effect on your stuffed eggplant dish. While sweeter and more tender than your typical American eggplant, they do the job well.

Graffiti eggplants are commonly used as substitutes for American eggplants, and they work in every application that they would — including your stuffed dishes. What makes them different than other varieties of eggplant, though, is that they have much smaller seeds (a great choice for picky eaters). This makes them ideal for roasting and eating whole, as you would if you stuffed them. Stuffing-wise, graffitis will go with anything, but their fun skin inspires a bit of something extra. For these, go for whole chickpeas with a drizzle of pesto and tahini to finish.